Hello, readers of Jalopnik, and welcome to Letters to Doug, wherein you send letters to Doug, and Doug answers them with a few swift movements of his quill pen across the parchment.
If you want to participate in Letters to Doug, I urge you to do so. Send me a letter at Letters2Doug@gmail.com, or send me a message on my Facebook page. Both situations are fine, though I’d prefer the Facebook thing, because you people signed me up for so much spam that I now get more e-mails from Team Trump than actual Jalopnik readers.
Anyway, today’s letter comes from someone I’ve named Davis. Davis writes:
I’ve been following your articles for quite some time now and have thoroughly enjoyed learning about the good and bad aspects of owning and driving each of the various vehicles you’ve owned in the past number of years, as well as your accounts of cars you’ve owned prior to starting the writing.
What I am wondering about is whether or not you have been able to surmise over the years if there is a ‘best of both worlds’ car that you have owned, where owning and driving are the worlds we speak of.
Some of the vehicles (the Cadillac) you reminisce fondly about (good ownership memories), but you still moved on to another vehicle. Others such as the Ferrari were a nightmare to own, but fantastic to drive.
Is the Unicorn real?
What Davis’s letter states, in addition to an excellent comment about my unquestionable brilliance, is a reasonable question: has there ever been a car that was the best of both worlds? A car that both lived up to its reputation for driving experience and wasn’t a total pain to own?
Unfortunately, in most cases, the answer is no.
The simple reality is that I purchase the vast majority of the cars I do because they have some really unique characteristic that endears me to them, and then it’s that very unique characteristic that makes them totally awful vehicles that I soon reject. For instance:
- My 2007 Mercedes E63 AMG wagon, purchased because it was a heavily depreciated used Mercedes, sold months later because, as a heavily depreciated used Mercedes, its operating costs were about the same as the National Park System.
- My 2006 Lotus Elise, purchased because it was an exotic car for a fourth of the cost, sold months later because it was an exotic car with a tenth of the comfort.
- My 2002 Mercedes G-Wagen, purchased because of its incredibly cool design and excellent off-road capabilities, sold months later because a) driving it is like piloting a vehicle with funhouse mirrors, and b) its “incredibly cool design” pre-dates the Manson killings, the result being that the G-Wagen rusts like a Civil War shipwreck.
- My Hummer, purchased because it seemed like it would be great for columns and videos, sold after a year because that was the only thing it was great for.
The problem, Davis, is that if you want an exciting automobile, you usually can’t go full-on insane mode, as I usually do. You want an SUV that’s good off-road? You get a Wrangler, not a Hummer. It’ll last longer, it’ll be way cheaper to own, and it’ll be almost as capable. You want a cool, tossable sports car you can take to the track? You get a Miata, not an Elise, and you won’t have to remove the entire body when it comes time to service the air conditioning. You want a nice luxury SUV? You get a Range Rover, not a G-Wagen, and live in a world of Toyota-level reliability by comparison.
The problem is, going for all of those cars is a compromise. Yeah, the Miata is cool, but it’s no Elise. Yeah, the Range Rover looks nice, but it’s no G-Wagen. Yeah, the Wrangler is capable, but who doesn’t have a Wrangler? What people don’t have is a freakin’ Hummer.
So is there one car that really does it all? A car that manages to be exciting and fun and unique, like a Hummer or a Lotus Elise, but still reliable, easy to own, and not compromised? Is this car out there somewhere?
The answer, Davis, is that yes, it is: it’s the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. A car so unique and special that it was only purchased by a small sliver of this population that would struggle to fill a Rookie League Single-A baseball stadium. A car so interesting to look at that it will cause concerned passersby to glance at it and ask if you’ve been in an accident.
And yet a car so easy to use that I once crafted an excellent column about its many wonderful traits, a column that was tremendously complimentary, save for the part where I referred to its design as resembling “a soup bowl with a backpack.”
As for other suggestions, I’ll leave them to the Jalopnik commenters below.